Carpal tunnel syndrome often begins as an easy-to-ignore tingle in the thumb, or an ache in the wrist building slowly, but persistently, to a searing, tearing pain from the wrist to the fingers. It culminates in sleepless nights, workless days and a numb but simultaneously excruciating, useless hand.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful and disabling condition and it’s also very common.

The carpal tunnel itself is a tunnel in the wrist made up of bony structures that are the base and the walls, with a rood constructed by a dense fibrous sheet. Through this tunnel courses a bundle of nerves, blood vessels and tendons that are the cables of supply to the hand. The syndrome is the result of pressure on all the important median nerve that travel through this space-limited tunnel.

The median nerve supplies sensation and strength to most of the thumb, several fingers and parts of the palm. It is thought that increased swelling or fluid in the carpal tunnel places pressure on this nerve resulting in the distressing symptoms experienced.

Swelling might occur for several reasons – repetitive hand movements, or pregnancy. Being overweight or having diabetes increase the risk for carpal tunnel. Occupational risks are also involved, whereby tasks requiring hand force or repetitive wrist movement are the culprits.

A wrist splint helps, as does local steroid injections. Surgery is the last resort.

Questions:

  • What is carpal tunnel?
  • How do I “get” it?
  • Who is at risk?
  • How do I know if I have it?
  • What can I do?
  • Will it get better?

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